4 Computers and data
The word ‘data’ has been used several times now in the context of the computer receiving input data, generating data and outputting data. A computer can only work with information that is presented to it in a very strictly controlled format. When information is in this format it is called data. Quite simply, a computer cannot perform its task if the information it needs has not been transformed into the required data form. In the examples in the previous sections, the data are the inputted numbers and those outputted by the program. The word data is actually plural (datum refers to an item of data), but is often used in the singular, e.g. ‘The data is …’. You will find both uses in this course, depending on the context. You will find out more about the format of data a computer needs later in this course.